SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Although Richard Hunter began losing his sight over 20 years ago, that hasn’t stopped him from keeping extremely acting and achieving his goals of running marathons and triathlons. The only difference is that Hunter now has one special dog, Klinger, to keep him safe.
“What Klinger does when he runs with me is no different than his regular guide dog work, he’s just moving at a slightly faster pace,” Hunter said on CBS’s This Morning. “He can be highly focused.”
Hunter was a twenty-something Marine Corps Second Lieutenant when he began losing his eyesight. Since then he has been trying to remain as active as he can.
“There were a lot of things I couldn’t do anymore,” Hunter told Runner’s World. “But I knew I had to focus on what I could do, especially as an example for my three daughters. The Marines taught me to love running — one thing I could do was run.”
With the help of human guides, Hunter has managed to train for and finish triathlons. Unfortunately, Hunter collided with a truck during a cycling training session. He was thrown through the windshield and broke his neck. Within three months, Hunter was back on his feet running.
Hunter was running the Boston Marathon when he met Thomas Panek, CEO of Guiding Eyes for the Blind. Guiding Eyes trains guide dogs for the blind.
“Richard shouted out, ‘I’m really curious, have you ever trained a guide dog to run?’ And I said, ‘I don’t know. It hasn’t been done,’” Panek told CBS.
Trainers Ben Cawley and Jolene Hollister managed to come up with a training program. They spent six months training Klinger to navigate obstacles and curbs.
“He took every challenge we threw at him, accepted it, exceeded it and gave us the ability to ask for more,” Hollister said to CBS. “As rewarding as training Klinger was, being able to work with Klinger and Richard together and watch the relationship develop with the two of them was a truly inspirational time for me that I’ll never forget.”
Hunter is thrilled with the freedom that Klinger has given him. They run almost every day together. He hopes that others will be able to share the same freedom that Klinger has brought him. He’s started a fundraiser to help reach his goal.
“If this program is successful, it is going to create the foundation for other people to follow in my footsteps.”